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The State of Economic Inclusion Report 2021: The Potential to Scale

World Bank Group




Workplace Gender Equality

Women's economic empowerment Economic inclusion Sustainable development

The State of Economic Inclusion Report 2021: The Potential to Scale

The State of Economic Inclusion Report 2021: The Potential to Scale

The State of Economic Inclusion (SEI) Report 2021 provides a global assessment on the state of inclusion programs that reach the extreme poor and vulnerable. Drawing on the experiences from over 75 countries, the report considers the feasibility of bringing economic inclusion and graduation programs to scale.

Economic inclusion programs are a bundle of coordinated, multidimensional interventions that support individuals, households and communities so they can raise their incomes and build their assets. This report presents data and evidence from 219 of these programs, which are reaching more than 90 million beneficiaries.

The SEI Report is a result of a unique collaboration under the Partnership for Economic Inclusion (PEI). PEI is a dedicated platform to support the adoption and adaptation of national economic inclusion programs working with a variety of stakeholders, including national governments and bilateral, multilateral, non-government, research, and private sector organisations.


The report establishes a strong baseline for global economic inclusion programs. It offers four important contributions:

  • A detailed analysis of the nature of these programs, the people living in extreme poverty and vulnerability who they support, and the organisational challenges and opportunities inherent in designing and leading them.
  • An evidence review of 80 quantitative and qualitative evaluations of economic inclusion programs in 37 countries.
  • The first multi-country costing study including both government-led and other economic inclusion programs, indicating that programs show potential for cost efficiencies when integrated into national systems.
  • Four detailed case studies featuring programs underway in Bangladesh, India, Peru and the Sahel region in Africa, which highlight the programmatic and institutional adaptations required to scale— as well as interventions to meet specific challenges—in diverse contexts.

Key findings

  • Economic inclusion programs are on the rise in 75 countries around the world, reaching approximately 20 million households and benefitting nearly 92 million individuals. This unprecedented surge is driven by the scale-up of government-led programs that build on investments in social protection, livelihoods and jobs, and financial inclusion. This trend is set to continue, especially in areas affected by conflict, climate change and shocks.
  • Women’s economic empowerment is a key driver of economic inclusion programming, with nearly 90% of programs surveyed in the report having a gender focus. Program design adaptations have emerged to promote empowerment (e.g., hiring female community facilitators, providing childcare and flexibility to increase participation, etc.) and mitigate unintended household and community risks (e.g., adjustments made in consideration of women’s increased work burden, or engaging men while implementing programs for women to ensure the men’s buy-in, facilitate behavioural change and decrease tension at home). (This topic is explored in the section of the report entitled “Spotlight 2: Promoting Women’s Empowerment through Economic Inclusion” on pages 83-88.)
  • There is a strong potential for economic inclusion programs to build on pre-existing government programs, and this may prove critical in the long-term recovery efforts arising from the COCID-19 economic crisis. Government interventions are usually a combination of cash or in-kind transfers, skills training or coaching, access to finance and links to market support.
  • A sustainable approach to scaling up involves more than expanding program beneficiary members. Scaling up is not simply about the size of the coverage but also about the quality—the quality of impact and sustainability of coverage as well as the quality of processes of change and adaptation.
  • Economic inclusion programs provide considerable flexibility for adaptations. There is common prioritisation on rural development, fragility, and the needs of specific vulnerable groups, including children, people with disabilities and displaced populations.
  • Economic inclusion programs look set to increasingly adapt to the realities of informality, especially for youths in urban areas.
  • Digital innovations will be critical to leapfrog capacity constraints and to strengthen program management.
  • Economic inclusion programs build on a promising evidence base that will soon grow significantly. This will be important for rebalancing the discussion on program impacts, especially to reframe how long-term impacts are understood within a national system of support.
  • An improved understanding of basic cost structures is a vital starting point to assessing the cost-effectiveness of economic inclusion programs by more than just “sticker price.”
  • Strong partnership is integral to the success of economic inclusion programs. Partnership is also critical to advance global operational knowledge, best practices, learning and leveraging financial support.

This report, as well as country-specific case studies, may be downloaded at the World Bank site. Separate overviews of the report are also provided in several languages: English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish. Data from the report are available on the open-access PEI Data Portal.

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